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Three Crosses

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 11, 2021 9:00 am

Three Crosses

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 11, 2021 9:00 am

In the unfolding story of God’s redemptive plan for mankind, we’ve come to the climax of the story, the moment on which everything else hangs. It’s a hope-filled message about the crucifixion.

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Greg Laurie
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J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. During the defining moment of God's work in human history, he chooses to walk onto stage with two random unnamed criminals because that's what his greatest moment was about. These three crosses are a microcosm of human history that tell the entire story of the human race. Welcome to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vadovich. You're joining us today as we're nearing the end of a teaching series called The Whole Story, going from Genesis to Revelation to see the unfolding story of God's redemptive plan for mankind.

If you've missed any part of the study, you can find all of the previous messages at But right now, keep listening because today we've come to the pinnacle, the moment on which everything else hangs. Since we've been saying all along that the whole Bible ultimately points to Jesus, it's time to dig into the pivotal moment where Jesus paid it all. We are talking about the crucifixion with a hope-filled message titled Three Crosses. Take out your Bible if you have it and open it to Luke chapter 23.

Luke 23, if you have your Bible, and I hope that you do. As you are turning there, if you have ever driven along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you might have seen a little sign as you go across one point where it says Eastern Continental Divide. That is the line that marks the eastward and westward slopes of our continent. It's raindrops, they say, that fall even an inch to the west of that dividing line will flow westward down toward the Mississippi River. Those that fall just an inch or so to the east will go all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean. There is even one spot in Glacier National Park in Montana called the Triple Divide Peak.

I've actually been there once. It's a spot that right from that one spot water flows to either the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Arctic Ocean. I want you to think about it. You've got three little sort of raindrop friends that are falling casually through the sky just chatting it up. They can literally land one centimeter apart from each other and end up in oceans on opposite sides of the globe. I share that because the passage we're going to work through today shows you the dividing line of eternity. People that are very close, very similar in life situations, who fall on opposite sides of this line are going to end up eternities apart. That's what you see when you look into Luke 23. We're going to find the stories of two men whose lives are almost identical in every way, but who fall by their own choice on the opposite side of a line. They end up in entirely different places and your life is going to be represented in one of the two of them.

Let's take a look at their stories. Chapter 23 verse 32. Let me jump back to verse 26 real quick. As they led Jesus away to be crucified, two others, verse 32, who were criminals were led away to be put to death with him. By the way, based on the other places that the New Testament uses this word criminals, it's most likely talking about insurrectionists who wanted to throw off the power of Rome.

And we're not talking about casual loving, you know, George Clooney, Ocean's Eleven type of thieves. We're talking about violent desperate men. Verse 33, when they came to a place that is called the skull, or in Hebrew language Golgotha, which literally means the skull, evidently they say the rock face actually looked like a skull the way the rocks formed in it. It was very terrifying just how it looked. They called it the skull and that's where they did executions. It was there that they crucified him and the criminals, one on his right and the other one on his left. And Jesus said, Father forgive them, verse 34, for they know not what they do.

This is the dividing line of history and at its pinnacle stands a skull with three crosses on one of which hangs the Son of God himself and on the other two, two criminals. You know, when the President of the United States makes an important speech, he often will include with him in the press conference on the stage that he speaks from. He'll include those who are most important to whatever it is that he's announcing. So if it's something that relates to the military, he'll put other generals up there with him. If he's talking about what's happening in a community, he'll put local leaders from that community.

If it's a new policy that he's starting, he'll put people in the group that will benefit from the policy that he's introducing. I want you to think about this. During the defining moment of God's work in human history, he chooses to walk onto stage with two random unnamed criminals because that's what his greatest moment was about. These three crosses are a microcosm of human history that tell the entire story of the human race. You're going to see a cross of redemption, you're going to see a cross of rejection, and you're going to see a cross of repentance. First, let's talk for a minute about Jesus's cross, the one in the middle, the cross of redemption.

Maybe you wonder how Jesus got on the cross in the first place. I mean, after all, the last time we saw Jesus, he was doing miracles and healing people, and everybody seemed to love him. Well, see, Jesus had gotten sideways with both the religious and the secular leaders of his day. The religious leaders were jealous of him because he threatened their authority.

The secular leaders thought of him as a nuisance who didn't tremble enough before the almighty power of Rome. The Jewish people were disappointed in him because he hadn't thrown off Roman power the way that they'd hoped, and his disciples were confused by him, so one betrayed him and the others abandoned him. So in a sense, his crucifixion represents the culmination of the collective failure of the human race. His crucifixion was caused by our jealousy, our arrogance, our apathy, our unbelief, and our cowardice. But God, Scripture tells us, had his own purpose in the crucifixion, something that he had been pursuing since the very beginning of human history. You see, from the beginning, God had told his people that he would send a savior to take their place under the curse of death. He told Adam and Eve, God told Adam and Eve, that he would send a deliverer who would crush the serpent of death. Genesis 3 15, he said, but that serpent of death is going to bite the heel of the deliverer.

Now, let me just ask you, think about this for a minute. If a man is in a war with a snake, and the man steps on the head of the snake, and he crushes the head of the snake, but the very poisonous snake bites his heel, who wins that fight? Well, in a sense, they both lose because the snake is dead. It got his head crushed, but then the guy is dead because he got bit by the poisonous snake. He's saying that, yes, there will be a guy who will come who will crush death, but he's actually going to be bitten by death and die from it. From that point on in the Bible, he's going to give picture after picture of this throughout almost every page of the Old Testament. For example, after destroying the world through a global flood in Noah's day, he sets a gigantic bow in the sky, a rainbow. That's a promise that God will never again destroy the earth in that way. But the way the author writes that is he uses the word war bow, like a bow and arrow, and it's, you know, put in the sky this way, which means that it's no longer pointed down toward earth.

It's pointed back up into heaven. It's a promise that God would absorb the arrow of his judgment, the death sentence into himself, rather than firing that arrow down into us. When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command, right before he took Isaac's life, God said stop and points him to a lamb that had been caught in the bushes just off to the right so that that lamb could be sacrificed in Isaac's place and Isaac the son could go free.

The entire sacrificial system was built on the concept of an innocent substitute taking the place of the guilty. So every year in Israel each believing family would bring one lamb, a perfect unblemished lamb, to the temple where they would offer it in sacrifice and the father of that family would carry it up to the altar and he'd lay it down on the altar and he would lay his hand on the head of that that lamb and begin to confess the sins of that family. And while he confessed their sins the priest would take the knife and slit the throat of the lamb, showing that this lamb, this innocent lamb, was dying in the place of of that family. Isaiah the prophet said that one day God would send his servant to be the lamb who suffered for the sins of the world and that that servant would be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the punishment that purchased our peace was going to be put on him and by his stripes would be healed. When John the Baptist saw Isaiah he cried out behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

On the head of Jesus is going to be laid the sins of the entire human race. He did more than come as a religious leader to teach us how we ought to live. He took the place of those of us who had lived opposite of how God wanted us to live. On the cross he became our sin so that from the cross he could forgive our sin. So that from the cross he could look out at those who had rejected and failed him and pray what he did there in verse 34. Father forgive them. He could extend forgiveness to them because he was being punished for them. What God did at the cross is he took the place so that he would fulfill the law that was against us that the soul that sins shall die and that he did it in a way that he could save us and he could bring us to heaven with him. That is why we say the gospel is Jesus in my place. I realize this can be a little hard to grasp but think of it this way. When you forgive somebody you agree to absorb the consequences for their action into yourself.

That's what forgiveness is. For example, say somebody lies about you and destroys your business. Their lies cause financial harm to you.

What are your options at that point? Well, you could prosecute them and then prosecute. You could take away their business or take money back away from them.

You could go out and, you know, get back at them by exposing them and telling everybody what a liar they are and ruining their reputation. But if you choose to forgive then what you are saying is I'm going to let the sting of that person's sin end in me and I'm not going to retaliate and I'm not going to even the score. I'm not going to put the sting back into them. I'm going to absorb the sting of suffering for their sin. What God did on the cross was exactly that. He refused to give the sting of death into us and he took it into himself. He suffered so that we didn't have to. Jesus died instead of you.

He took your place. Now we turn to the other two crosses on either side of him bearing the two criminals because they're going to demonstrate for us the division, the dividing line of the entire human race. Verse 39, one of the criminals who were hanged railed at him and said, are you not the Christ?

Save yourself and us. Verse 40, but the other rebuked him. Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man, this man has done nothing wrong. Verse 42, and then he turns to Jesus and he says, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Verse 43, and Jesus said to him, truly I say to you today, today you will be with me in paradise. Now first let's talk about what these two guys have in common. First, they're both equally bad.

It doesn't say that one of them was worse than the other, that one was a varsity level center and one was a JV level. They're both equally bad. They're both under the sentence of death. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that both of these criminals started out, both of them mocking Jesus, not just the one.

We know that both of them are minutes away from dying. We know that both criminals would have been happy for Jesus to have delivered them from death. Verse 39, even the one that ultimately rejects Jesus says, hey, if you're really the Messiah, save yourself and us.

That's partially a taunt and partially sincere. He would have loved for Jesus to have come down off the cross, smitten the Romans, delivered them and led an insurrection against Rome. Right? So both of them want Jesus to deliver them, but one thief began to understand some things, things that are necessary for a true conversion. And understanding these three things I'm going to give you is the dividing line of the human race.

Here it is, right? And be very careful about these. Number one, he knew the difference. This repentant thief in seeking help from God and seeking God for himself. He knew the difference in seeking help from God and seeking God for himself.

Do you see how verse 40, the repentant thief doesn't ask to be taken down from the cross? I'm sure y'all he would have been happy if Jesus had offered that. If he'd been like, hey, you know what? I'm going to take you down from the cross and you're not going to die today. I'm sure he would have been overjoyed.

I'm sure he would have been overjoyed. But when he called out on Jesus for help, he doesn't mention being taken down off the cross. All he says is, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Because the thief realizes, listen, that what he needs is not a change in circumstance. What he needs is a change in what his life has been centered upon. So instead of asking God for the life he wants, he wants to make God his life. Do you understand the difference? Do you understand the difference in seeking God to give you the life you want and wanting God to become your life?

It's the difference between loving God for himself and finding God as a useful means to some other end. John Piper says that many people, for example, relate to God like a tire iron. Tire irons are a really useful instrument. Very helpful in a pinch.

Right? But nobody really loves a tire iron. Nobody brags about their tire iron. Nobody displays their tire iron proudly. Nobody says, hey, you got to come over and look at my tire iron. You hide it in the trunk. You wouldn't want to be caught without it, but you don't love it. Your tire iron is useful for taking care of what you really care about. And what do you really care about? Your car.

Your car. That's how many of us, Piper says, see God. God is useful for some end we need him for. He gives us peace in life. He gives us a stable family.

He helps us in our marriage. He's going to take us to heaven when we die, but he's not beautiful in and of himself to us. So we seek him as a means to an end. God is useful for getting the life that we want, but we don't want God to be our life. Which of those two better describes how you seek God?

Do you find him useful or you find him beautiful? Is God merely the best means to the life you want or do you want God to be your life? In the same way, there's a big difference in trying to appease God and really loving him. And we all know an illustration of like a man who mistreats his wife and neglects her. And after many years of putting up with this, she just says, I'm leaving. And so he suddenly panics and he starts to make all these changes and he agrees to go to counseling with her and he starts to go to church with him. We've seen this story actually several times here at the Summit Church and he starts to make all these changes.

But after a while, after he's out of danger, he ends up going back to his old ways because when the danger is gone and he doesn't think she's going to leave, he's never really corrected the core problem in his heart and that is he doesn't give his wife the place in his heart that she deserves. In the same way, our repentance has to be a genuine change of heart toward God, not merely an attempt to appease God. Many people wonder about deathbed conversions.

You heard of that? They're like, well, can somebody live an evil life and never do anything good or think about God at all? And then in the moment, right before they die, repent to God and go to heaven? I mean, the answer from this story is yes.

Thank God, yes. This story shows you that. But it also shows you, listen, it has to be true repentance. It can't be God give me my get out of hell free card without a change of heart that says, God, up until now, I've centered my whole life on everything but you. And that changes from this moment forward. Whether I got five minutes left for 50 years, I'm not just trying to make a deal with you so that I can use you to get to heaven.

I want you to become the center of my life. And the fact that this guy didn't ask to be delivered from the cross but did ask Jesus to remember his soul shows you that that change had happened in him. Here's my question for you.

Have you truly repented? Why do you want Jesus in your life? Why do you want him? Is it because you think it'll give you a better marriage?

Is he gonna get you out of a jam? Is it because you think he can heal you or prosper you? Is it because you think he'll take you to heaven?

Or do you want him for him? Even if it means that you for the time being have to stay on the cross of bad health or a bad marriage or an unhappy home or tough circumstances in your job. Listen, you have got to get more serious about your soul than you are your skin. Because ultimately what salvation is about is not changing the circumstance of your life. It's about reconnecting you and restoring you to God regardless of the circumstance of your life. Have you truly repented before God or have you just tried to arrange a deal with God? Before I go on to number two, let me give you a handful of signs that you've never really repented. Right?

Here's one, letter A if you're taking notes. You got areas you got areas of compromise before God. Some of you have believed this lie that you can accept Jesus as Savior and not surrender to him as Lord. I heard that when I was a kid. How you can accept Jesus as Savior now and then you know I mean one day you might really surrender.

That Bible never makes that division. Imagine that you know you got married. Say you're a girl and you get married and you know as soon as the reception is done you grab your keys and you're heading for the door and your new husband's like where are you going? And you're like I'm gonna go spend the night with my old boyfriend.

Right? That's not a marriage at all. People who accept Jesus as Savior but not Lord are attempting to do the same thing. They're like okay Jesus I'm gonna be reunited with you but you know I'm not really you. If he is not your Lord, he's not your Savior.

There's letter B. You don't have a growing relationship with him. You don't spend daily time with him reading this word and praying. I mean after all if he's the center of your life you'll talk with him constantly and you'll study his word if he really is the center of your life. I mean if your relationship with Jesus consists of coming in here and hearing a pep talk from me every week and then you going throughout the week trying to be a fairly moral person but you never really talk to Jesus beyond that, you have no relationship with him. Any more than I would have a marriage to my wife Veronica if all I did was get together with a friend and talk about her once a week. That was it. We come together, my friend and I, we talk about how awesome Veronica is.

We've even seen some songs about Veronica. And then we come back next week and do the same thing. That's not a relationship. What makes me married, what makes my marriage a relationship is not that I talk about it with somebody else but that I commune with her throughout the week.

Here's another. You aren't involved in things like small groups or Bible studies that are growing your relationship with him. That shows that you've never really made him the center of your life.

Here's letter C. You're not actively involved in his mission. Your attendance in church is sporadic and you stay on the sidelines. How can you say he's the center of your life if you're not living at his will for your life? Doing the things in ministry he's told you to do. Those things might indicate that you're trying to use God rather than really love him. Let me get back to this repentant thief and I'll show you what else is true about him. First thing is, like I said, he knew the difference in seeking help from God and seeking God for himself. Number two, he understood his guilt before God. He understood his guilt before God. Tim Keller says that this second thief says something that is impossible to admit without God's help.

Verse 41. He looks at this other criminal and he says, we are punished justly getting what our deeds deserved. The word that the other gospels use for these two guys is leiste. Leiste which means something more like insurrectionists. These were guerrilla fighters. They were freedom fighters. There is no way a guy who has been a freedom fighter is going to say that he is being fairly and justly put to death by Rome. He believed he was fighting for justice.

He believed his cause was just. So when he says, we are getting what we deserve, what is he talking about? He's not talking primarily about Rome's punishment of him on the cross. What he's saying is, we deserve to be abandoned by God to be punished for our sins.

We deserve before God to die. You see, repentance recognizes that sin is first and foremost against God. King David committed what had to be one of the most egregious public sins in history. He sleeps with a woman who is not his wife, who happens to be married to one of his best friends, who is also his right-hand man-at-arms.

So after his inability to cover up this pregnancy that she has because of them sleeping together, he arranges for his best friend to be killed. And then he lies about it and covers it up for an entire year in front of Israel. When God, after a year, finally brings him to repentance, David writes a psalm recording his repentance, Psalm 51. And right at the beginning of that psalm, David says, against you, Lord, and you only have I sinned.

How could he how could he say that? I mean, I imagine when he said that, that somewhere in heaven Uriah was like, ah, I feel like you sinned against me too. And I thought Bathsheba said, yeah, you sinned against me and the baby that died because of that. I felt like that baby said, you sinned against me.

And I felt like the entire nation of Israel said, you also sinned against us. How could he say against you and you only have I sinned? It's not because he didn't recognize the wrong he'd done to others or that he needed to repay them. It's because God was so big in his heart that this was the most important one he sinned against. Is that how you feel about your sin? Is your repentance first vertical with God, or is it horizontal with remorse for the sin you've made in your life? Repentance is measured by how our hearts change towards God. This message is part of our study called The Whole Story, showing us how every page of the Bible tells the story of the gospel.

If you've missed any of the teaching along the way during this teaching series, you can find it at We're coming to the end of this series in a couple of weeks, but to help you dig deeper into your knowledge of the Bible, we're really excited to introduce a custom Summit Life Bible. JD, tell our listeners what's so special or custom about this newest resource.

Yeah, well, let's just be clear. When we say custom Bible, we don't mean that we have re-edited the Bible, you know, in any way. It's the English standard version of the Bible, but it's small. It's compact.

It fits easily in a purse, a backpack, a computer bag. It's got a custom Summit Life Bible reading plan printed right on the inside. The main goal of this is that we wanted you to grow in your daily interaction with God, where you read the Bible in a way you understand it, and be able to connect the individual stories and teachings of the Bible to the bigger picture of what's going on. So that when you get done, you're like, not just I've checked the box and read the Bible, but I love and know Jesus more. One year, 52 week Bible reading plan. This is a Bible you can use as an adult. This is a great resource that you can use and be sharing parts with your kids to help them get the big picture of the Bible. We'd love to get you a copy so you can pick up where we are in the series or start at the beginning or even give it away to someone who you think may need some encouragement in reading their Bible. It's a convenient portable size, ideal for taking with you everywhere and using every day.

The translation is the English standard version or the ESV, which is a great choice for personal study. You're welcome to request the custom Bible as a thanks when you donate today to support this ministry. It takes friends like you partnering with us to make Summit Life possible. Will you join that mission today?

The suggested donation is $25 or more. And when you get in touch, remember to ask for your copy of the custom Summit Life Bible. Call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give online at I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us Tuesday when we continue this message called Three Crosses on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-12 08:41:28 / 2023-08-12 08:52:09 / 11

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